Tag Archives: San Diego Union Tribune

Via iPad App, The Reintroduction of UT San Diego (The San Diego Union Tribune)

For newspaper publishers and newspaper readers, iPad apps tend to be nice-to-have but not especially important. Given the choice of rich newspaper apps like The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, I actually opt for the browser versions over the apps: I can see a lot more content at one glance; they’re updated more often; and they load faster.

But I’ve found that newspaper apps for “lite” newspapers much better. USA Today’s headline and short story format is perfect for the iPad. The Washington Post (not such a lite paper) has a great iPad app, too.

In early December, The San Diego Union Tribune –a truly lite newspaper but with good local news and features– also launched an iPad app. The result is vastly superior to the print and browser version of the newspaper. More than 11,000 downloads have already taken place.

The UT’s iPad launch coincides with the elevation of digital chief Mike Hodges to president and COO, and today, a rebranding of the newspaper company, which recently changed hands, to UT San Diego. The new name also does away with the dated “Sign On San Diego” city guide moniker.

An announcement on the company’s website notes that “We will now use one company name and logo on all of our media products and communications: U-T San Diego. This change marks a new era in our company’s history. It will help us unify our print and digital products under a single brand with a clear and consistent expectation of quality. SignOnSanDiego.com is now UTSanDiego.com, to match the nameplate of the newspaper and our newly released iPad app.”

Hodges, a digital real estate marketing vet prior to joining Freedom Communications and then The UT, has been responsible for several new revenue initiatives. These include a heavy emphasis on the local daily deal, bolstered by the acquisition of Discover SD, an events guide and deals platform for a younger demographic.

Hodges notes that the iPad app was specifically designed to have an entertainment orientation. “The primary time that people are looking at it is after 6 PM , when people want to lean back after dinner and watch TV. They’re often reading the App as well,” he says.

The App, designed by MindGruve Interactive, is geo-enabled for traffic and Surfline surf reports. It features a FlipBoard-like news page, along with drop down “sections” for easy access.The sections include a full graphic on the Daily Deal – it shows up very well. It also prominently highlights features that were obscured in print and on the website, including arts, photos and videos.

Notably, in an effort to keep it simple, The UT App doesn’t offer newspaper content such as comics, a television programming guide, letters to the editor, user generated content or local news – although Hodges says a major local initiative will launch in early January. Other Phase 2 items will include more in-depth, iPad-only content. It might also include more localized weather (the temperature in the San Diego region varies by as much as 15 degrees from one area to the next).

Much has been made of the iPad’s appeal for advertisers. The charter advertiser for the UT’s free phase is Cadillac. When the App goes to a premium model next quarter after an introductory period, sponsorship will be available for multiple sponsors on a premium basis.

Pricing for the App, however, is still being finalized. When it is introduced during Q1, there is likely to be an a la carte three month subscription for users who just want the App, especially those outside the San Diego area. My guess is it might be priced in the neighborhood of $5 a month. But there will also be bundles for people who want seven day delivery, or three day weekend delivery.

We’ll see whether The UT pulls the trigger on a firewall for the App. Several other publishers have announced plans to charge but haven’t done so.

Living Social Joins Instant Mobile Deal Space

Instant deals designed for mobile consumers on-the-go look like the next big extension in the deals space. Living Social told AllThings D that it is offering instant $1 “Walk In” deals for lunch in its headquarters city of Washington DC as a promotion for its mobile apps. Users who sign up for the feature will see all days within a half-mile of their GPS-enabled location. Users buy the deals right on their phones.

The entry by Living Social into the instant deals space follows earlier efforts by TipCity, which has partnered with The San Diego Union Tribune to provide instant deals; and New York-based GroupTabs.

TipCity has a paperless system –users simply say “TipCity” to counter people. It works with restaurants on an account basis. Another site, GroupTabs, is a mobile app that provides discounts after thresholds are reached for a promotion (i.e. 20 people buying a margarita within a two hour window). GroupTabs made a splash when it kicked off last August but has not been heard of since.

San Diego Union-Tribune Buys DiscoverSD; Will Merge Deals Database

The San Diego Union Tribune is buying DiscoverSD. com, a lifestyle website founded in 2006. The acquisition, in the works for six months, was made with an eye towards expanding the UT’s fast growing Daily Deal business arm, which is expected to generate $10 million this year in new revenue.

The merger of the two databases will give the company’s separate deals programs a reach of 230,000 people. The UT has migrated to its own deals platform after originally working with Shoutback. DiscoverSD will also be using the UT platform.

Besides deals, The UT and DiscoverSD will seek synergies on marketing and website development, while maintaining separate brands and operations. There won’t be news sharing. “We are a multi-platform company, and we need to be aggressive about growing in all of these areas, said Publisher Ed Moss, in a UT article. “(But) they’re positioned differently than our company, and we need to keep it that way.”

DiscoverSD.com reaches 200,000 unique visitors per month, compared with 3.3 million uniques for SignOnSanDiego.com, the Union-Tribune’s website arm. The UT’s audience tends to be older, while a third of DiscoverSD.com’s visitors are between 18 and 34.

Deals: #1 Growth Area for San Diego Union Tribune

Deal-a-day group buying is a certain hit. But how important is it in the scheme of things for local media companies? For The San Diego Union Tribune, deals represented “the number one new revenue growth,” in 2010, according to Mike Hodges,VP of Interactive for the newspaper company, who was quoted in a recent UT article by Tamara Chuang.

More than 15 companies actively market deals in the San Diego area, and Hodges told Chuang that the market ought to take in over $40 million in 2011. The UT is apparently grabbing a healthy share of those revenues, with a daily deal email list topping 200,000 readers.

For the UT, however, deals are just part of a broader marketing platform for email opt-in users. Other components include daily member promotions, typically for local resorts or retailers; and weekly deal mails, including deals from two San Diego-area vendors: BuxBack, which gives users money back on their credit card when they support registered merchants; and TipCity, a mobile deals provider for restaurants.

Deal Current Hopes to Level ‘Daily Deal’ Playing Field for Local Media


Daily deals are one of the hottest new areas for local advertising and promotions, with Groupon, Living Social and more than 150 other players rolling out their own versions.

At least two companies, Click ‘N Shout and Deal Current, are targeting local media companies as partners. Basically, they’ll provide the technical and logistical know-how, and the media companies would provide sales and marketing. Both companies launched dueling products in San Diego this month with The San Diego Union Tribune’s Sign on San Diego and the upstart San Diego News Network (See April 6 Post).

Deal Current CEO Jimmy Hendricks says he’s carved the company from Artistic Hub, a 10- person firm that’s been providing support for various media properties for 2 ½ years, including Time Warner Cable, The Oakland Raiders and Active.com, where he previously worked on its tennis vertical.

Deal Current began in November, when it began developing Daily Deal with SDNN, which had used the company to build several photo contests involving the San Diego Chargers, pets etc. But the company’s ambitions go beyond daily deals.

“Our goal is to build a suite of private label solutions for media partners to engage their visitors and to increase revenue,” says Hendricks. Just this week, for instance, the company launched several online contests for Entercom, the radio station group. Content software is too expensive” for media companies to build on a one-off basis, he notes.

Regarding The Daily Deal, Hendricks expects to be announcing a number of white label deals with media partners. Hendricks compares his efforts to Click ‘N Shout, which he calls a “redirect” that requires use of a Click n Shout URL and branding.

“Media partners can run their own program and embed our software on their site,” says Hendricks. Deal Current also provides full turn-key solution including sales training, promotional plans, customer support, and operations.

Whether embedded or redirected, Hendricks believes the key to success for daily deals is going to be the quality deals. “It won’t work without good merchants and good advertisers,” he says. It is also important not to dilute the quality control so that only the most interesting and desired advertisers are featured.

Ultimately, Hendricks believes the daily deal market will shake out to top consumer brands such as Groupon and Living Social, and leading local media plays as well. “All the small guys with 5,000 emails are going to get pushed out,” he says.

Deal Current hopes to mine the best local media partners. Partnerships will be offered on an exclusive basis for the first six months or so, then complementary local media partners may be added as well (i.e. radio stations with newspapers).

In San Diego, for instance, The San Diego News Network is partnered with San Diego 6 TV; and with the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, a niche site with 68,000 monthly users. Local sites like SDGLN may not have enough traffic on their own, but they’ll do well banded together, says Hendricks. Some deals may be structured so that media companies receive affiliate commissions from others in the market.

One Newspaper’s Revenue Strategy: Hardcore Focus on Local, Print


Newspapers can still win with a hardcore community focus in their journalism and advertising, and a renewed emphasis on print. Or at least, that’s s the message delivered by Ed Moss, the newly installed publisher of The San Diego Union Tribune, which was sold a few months ago at a firesale price to Platinum Equity, a buyer of troubled properties.

Moss, who was interviewed on KFMB-TV’s Sunday morning talk show, said the paper is focusing on “micro-zoning,” with 19 different zones within its circulation area. A plumber could target 13,000 readers in Scripps Ranch, he noted. It isn’t necessary for them to spring $800 or more to reach beyond his territory. The new orientation is consistent with the new sales staff brought in. In fact, the new sales leader is a veteran of PennySaver.

Moss also said that the paper, whose daily circulation has just fallen below 300,000, still has 175 journalists on board, and they will similarly focus on providing hard core community news. It seems unlikely, however, that the 19 advertising zones will be replicated with the paper’s content zones, which are currently split in five.

What Moss didn’t have on-air time to address was the strategy for SignonSanDiego. The paper, however, apparently doesn’t have expectations that it will be a major contributor to the bottom line – mostly, Signon will be supported to complement print content and to stave off online competitors such as local TV stations and The San Diego News Network, whose President is former SignOn leader Chris Jennewein.

Kill the Innovators: San Diego U-T Lays Off Online Leaders


These are tough, fast-changing times for newspapers, and many of them are taking severe measures to get back on track. Sometimes, it means putting the innovative online guy in charge of print too, as Bay Area News Group has done with online advertising head David Prizer. But sometimes, it means consolidating power under the old print hands that believe they need to “own” the online efforts because that is where the action is.

Last week, The San Diego Union Tribune, for instance, laid off its online leadership: GM Chris Jennewein, Content Head Ron James and Business Development head Jim Drummond. Mark Davis, the paper’s current head of strategy, will take over the Internet operations.

Some anonymous spin in The San Diego Weekly Reader, an alternative paper, suggested that Jennewein and his team probably had to go because of a “disastrous” experiment in the creation of an online radio station, and its decision to provide a bigger news footprint during the San Diego fires last year, removing advertising from the home pages. The implication, I guess, is that the paper should stay on the straight –and- narrow and maximize all revenue opportunities (or whatever the cliché.)

But will the print people clearly see the opportunities inherent in the online world of marketplaces and community? Can they leverage what they have into new businesses? It is a fair question.

I have consulted for SignOn on-and-off for eight years. From my limited interactions with the company, I could see that there had been tensions among the print and online staffs. But I don’t know the real reason for the online team’s removal.

From my observation of SignOn, I can tell you that the site has been a pioneer among newspapers in the creation of email targeting for local businesses; and the creation of sponsored verticals, especially for tourism, such as a SuperBowl guide when the SuperBowl came to town. SignOn also created a business directory that specifically focused on tourism. It has also extended the franchise to vertical directories in print, creating widely distributed eldercare and legal directories.

It also has been a pioneer in the use of multimedia, including photo libraries, podcasts and video. All this especially came to fruition during its exceptional coverage of the devastating San Diego fires, where the site was a community lifeline for hundreds of thousands of people who had been evacuated. I don’t remember any criticism about its decision not to run advertising on the home pages at that time.

What it was doing was building the loyalty of the local audience. Shouldn’t that be priceless in a town where the print circulation is in the low 20s?

The site has also conducted a number of inexpensive experiments, including the Wikis for local community and music scene information; and mobile news headlines, which might be seen as a necessity in QualComm’s hometown. More recently, it created the AmplifySD Radio local music station and the SignOn Radio station, which expanded the paper’s footprint to the work day with weekly shows on such topics as local gardening, dining and online politics.

I will need to talk to someone who can tell me why it was such as bad idea. While there had been some equipment to purchase, the day to day operating costs certainly weren’t very much.

What Jennewein and company didn’t do was jump after every opportunity, and reinvent the wheel with every new thing that came along. They prioritized, and worked within a budget.

The print people will now apparently take over the reins of the operation, determined to focus on both print and online. Maybe they will do better. But obviously, this will only happen if they understand what Jennewein and company have long understood: that their job in not only to sustain existing revenues, but to create new revenues that comes from the opportunities that are inherent in interactive media, and by reaching a broader swath of the dynamic San Diego community.